Justice of the Peace #2

Justice CourtsJustice of the Peace 2 Courtroom

In Justice Court (JC), the judge is referred to as Justice of the Peace (JP). Justice Courts are limited in their jurisdiction.  That means they do not have the authority to hear cases in Divorce, Title to real estate, or Juveniles cases, which under the rules of court are reserved for Superior Courts only.   Graham County is divided into only two Justice Court precincts, with 20th Ave. in Safford being the dividing line between JC#1 (to the East) and JC#2 (to the West) going through Thatcher, Daley Estates, Central, Pima, Fort Thomas & Bylas.

Justice Courts, have authority (called jurisdiction) to hear cases that occurred in their respective jurisdictions, in eight areas of the law.

  1. Civil Traffic    (CT)    ……………….These are minor vehicle violations.
  2. Criminal Traffic    (CTR) …………..These are more serious vehicle infractions.
  3. Misdemeanor criminal  (CM)  ……Non-traffic, criminal law.
  4. Orders of Protection      (CV)   ......Injunctions and domestic orders.

Typically, if these four type of cases are charged by a city officer, they are cited into city court, but county and state officer cite these cases into Justice Courts.                                    

In addition, four other types of case are only cited into Justice Court, even if they do occur within a city or town boundary;

   5.  Felony cases (CF), start in Justice Court with an “Initial Appearance” where the charges are reviewed, rights given, and release conditions set.  The case is then scheduled for the second appearance called a Preliminary Hearing (PH).  This PH is where the state presents its evidence of the charges so the judge can determine if there is enough evidence to send it to the Superior Court for trial issues, or not.   If the evidence is insufficient, the charge is dismissed at the PH.

   6.  Civil cases (CV), filed in Justice Court have changed over the years.   Their jurisdiction was once limited to $500, then increased to $1000, and then $5000, and is currently limited at $10,000.   Civil cases may be claims of debt such as credit cards, contract disputes, goods and services, injury cases, etc.   Civil rules of court are quite different from criminal rules.

   7.  Small Claims cases (SC), which usually are smaller versions of civil cases, have their own briefer set of court rules and procedures.   These rules are designed to be quicker and simpler for the “pro-per” citizen (proceeding without an attorney).   Generally, attorneys are not allowed to appear in SC cases.   SC actions are capped at $3,500 (plus fees, interest, and costs).

   8.  Evictions cases (CV), where a landlord is suing their tenant, to recover possession of the property prior to the expiration of their contract.  Where the landlord has “let out” their property to a tenant, the tenant has the rights to the property, not the landlord, until the court issues an order to return the property to the landlord.   These cases are very fact specific.  The laws and rules for evictions are under Title 12 (Evictions) and Title 33 (Landlord/ Tenant Act) and in conjunction with the terms of their contract, and also have their own set of court rules, referred to as Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions.  Procedurally, the judge has little discretion here because the law is very complete.  The court will work to incorporate all of these rules into the Landlord/Tenent relationship.  The purpose of an eviction hearing is to let the judge know what the parties did/didn’t do, so the judge can apply the law and legally conclude the claims.